Nigeria has made remarkable strides in its fight against corruption in the last six years despite institutional challenges and unfair criticisms from segments of the citizens, the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) has said.
The Committee Chairman, Professor Itse Sagay, told journalists in Lagos that PACAC had recorded ‘considerable milestones’ but that a lot more effort was still needed to rid the country of corruption.
With a score of 25 out of a possible 100, Nigeria dropped three positions to 149 in Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perception Index, against its 146th position among 180 countries surveyed in 2019.
Despite this, PACAC, which was set up in August 2015 to coordinate Nigeria’s anti-corruption strategy, said Nigeria had made remarkable progress in reducing corruption.
It attributed this to its work in strengthening the capacities of agencies and officials while ensuring legislative and judicial improvements to increase convictions, stem impunity and recover looted funds.
According to Professor Sagay, the committee had surpassed the expectations of itself, the Nigerian government and donors.
This, he said, were evident in its reform of the anti-corruption agenda and the criminal justice system; coordination of the implementation of legislative efforts towards fighting impunity; and promotion of cooperation among the various anti-corruption agencies, including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and other agencies relevant in the anti-corruption efforts.
He listed other achievements of PACAC to include training to improve the capacity of prosecutors, law-enforcement agents and other judicial officers; contributing to tackling illicit financial flows across international borders; and support for legislations to promote the anti-corruption fight and strengthen the criminal justice system.
Under its watch, the EFCC and ICPC have secured more than 3,000 convictions, including of high-profile individuals and recovered assets valued at about 1 trillion Naira from corrupt individuals since 2015.
The presidential committee’s Executive Secretary, Professor Sadiq Isah Radda, however expressed dissatisfaction with the actions of lawyers, judges and other judicial officers who frustrate the anti-corruption fight through technicalities and other legal hurdles.
According to Professor Radda: “There is a lot of corruption within the system.
People who have stolen a lot of money use the same money to hire lawyers who then fight the government in court.
The committee described as unpatriotic citizens who criticize the anti-corruption fight unfairly without seeking clarification or with the deliberate intention to condemn every action of the government out of hatred.
Contrary to these unfair criticisms, Professor Sagay said the committee’s work has resulted in the recovery of looted funds to the tune of about 1 trillion Naira within the last six years.
He said the recovered funds were being used to provide social support for the poor and vulnerable.
According to him: “And even more remarkably these recoveries have been recycled into the budget to uplift the oppressed and most vulnerable victims of corruption, namely, the young unemployed youths, young school children, who can now enjoy one free nutritional meal a day at school, extremely poor families who now receive the conditional cash transfer of N5,000 a month and women, youths, farmers, etc, who now receive interest free loans to capitalize their small scale businesses.
“So the recovered loot is pumped back into the lives of the most vulnerable Nigerians, in order to transform them into proud productive Nigerians, who will end up as employers themselves, contributing to the development of Nigeria.
Reducing cost of governance
Meanwhile, the committee urged the federal government to work harder at cutting the cost of governance resulting from huge yearly spending on salaries of politicians, civil servants and other personnel costs.
The Chairman said huge federal spending on recurrent expenditure constituted a drain on the national budget and was hampering development.
He recommended Lagos State Government as a worthy example to the federal government in prioritising capital spending over salaries
One of the country’s 36 states, Lagos has consistently kept spending on salaries and other personnel costs low relative to spending on much-needed infrastructure and other capital projects in its annual budget in recent years.
Conversely, nearly 70 percent of the federal government’s yearly budget goes to maintaining its large number of workers and politicians, leaving just about 30 percent for infrastructural development.
“The three arms of government and indeed the three tiers of government must consult, concur and develop a blueprint for cutting the cost of governance in Nigeria,” Professor Sagay advised.
PACAC also called for the support of parents, schools, religious bodies, labor unions and other stakeholders for its efforts to rid Nigeria of corruption and impunity.
Presidential committee lauds Nigeria’s anti-corruption victories